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Be Careful What You Ask For – Protect Your Reputation

We’ve all heard the expression, “it doesn’t hurt to ask.” But what if it can and does?

While it’s true that you won’t get what you don’t ask for, it’s also true that requests help form others’ impressions of us. Some asks may seem high maintenance and create the impression that we’re difficult to work with. Other requests may create the impression that we’re out of touch or entitled. Be brave in what you ask for but also be judicious and aware of how requests may impact others.

So, what shouldn’t you ask for at work? That’s a hard question to answer. What’s appropriate in one environment may not be ok in another. I’ll provide some guidance for most work environments below.

Don’t ask for anything that requires your boss to break the rules or treat you differently from other employees. This may seem obvious, but I’ve been asked for things that I couldn’t legally provide. A candidate asked me to write her a monthly check towards her personal health insurance plan versus her participating in our company-sponsored health insurance plan. It’s an innocent request but put me in a very awkward position and I said no.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to follow when making requests:

Don’t ask for or take time off during the busiest times of the year. Ask your boss what those busy times are and then plan accordingly.

Don’t ask for exceptions unless you’re desperate – being paid in advance to cover unforeseen personal expenses, time off you haven’t earned, unless It’s regularly permitted in your company, using company resources for personal use. All of these may seem acceptable in the moment, but if they make your boss bend or break the rules, they’ll likely make you look bad too.

Be brave. Be bold. And be careful what you ask for. Your reputation is more important than a request that feels important right now but will be insignificant by next year.


Manage Your Professional Reputation – Get There First

Managers Don't Like SurprisesYou’ve heard countless times that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So when something not-so-positive happens – a customer is upset, you missed a deadline, or made an error – don’t let your boss find out about it from someone else. Manage your professional reputation and get there first to create the first impression of what happened.

Managers don’t like surprises. If your manager is going to get a call about something that isn’t positive, let her know before the call comes in. You will create her perception of the situation, and perceptions are hard to change.  Don’t wait for the s*** to hit the fan. Get ahead of the problem by coming forward and giving your manager and other stakeholders a heads up.

Boss Phone CallIt could sound something like this, “I just had a tough conversation with John in IT. You may get a call.  Here’s what happened… I didn’t want you to be surprised.”

Or, “I told Brian at Intellitec that we’re raising our prices in the second quarter. He wasn’t happy. You may get a call.”

Or let’s say you’re going to work on a strained relationship. Tell your manager before you take action.  It could sound something like this, “I want to work on my relationship with Julie. Our relationship has been strained since we worked together on the software project last year. I’d like to approach her, tell her that I know our relationship is strained, and that I’d like a good working relationship with her. Then I’d like to ask if You Create the first Impressionshe’s willing to have lunch with me, talk about what’s happened, and see if we can start again in a more positive way.  What do you think of me doing that?  Would you approach the conversation differently? I don’t know how it’s going to go, so I wanted you to know what I’m planning to do, just in case it backfires and you get a call.”

Manage your professional reputation assertively by taking responsibility for mistakes, working on damaged relationships, and telling your manager before someone else does!


Be A Change Agent – Make It Easy to Tell You Yes

Concerned about something happening in your workplace? Don’t just tell someone about the problem, propose a solution. It’s fine to raise challenges. It’s better to raise challenges you’re willing to do something about. If you think two departments don’t talk to each other, bring them together. If you think a process is inefficient, propose a different way to get the work done. If you’re dissatisfied with software you’re using, offer to source three potential vendors and set up a demo. You’re doing the legwork and asking for a small investment of time.

When we ask for something at work, our request often requires time, money, or both.  Thus when an employee asks for something, it’s easier for a manager to say no than it is to say yes. “No” requires no work and no financial outlay. A “yes” may require both.

You make it easy to say yes to requests when you’re acting as a change agent:

  1. Propose a solution to a problem.
  2. Offer to do the work to solve the problem.
  3. Ask for small things that are easy to approve.

If you’re overwhelmed and want to hire an additional person, but your boss isn’t convinced you need the headcount, ask for a temp for a finite number of hours. It’s much easier for a manager to say yes to a small and known investment amount than to the long-term commitment of hiring someone new.  The point is to ask for something that is easy for your manager to approve.

The word “pilot” is your friend. If you want to make a major change, pilot a scaled down version of your proposed solution in one or two locations, rather than in your organization’s 10 locations. Again, asking for something small makes it more likely that you’ll be told yes.

The bottom line is to be part of the solution – as trite and overused as that phrase is. Don’t be the person who says, “That’s broken” without also saying, “and here’s how we can fix it.  Can I give it a try?”


Manage Control Freaks

control freak

Frustrated by a control freak, micromanager, or a high-need-to-know type? Controlling behavior stems from a need that isn’t being met. Identify the need, meet it, and your life gets easier.

This is similar to what sales people learn during good sales training. The customer wants to buy the car but doesn’t. She visits the dealership three times, but just can’t pull the trigger. She has some sort of a concern. If the sales person can identify the concern, he can possibly resolve it, and sell the car. Working with control freaks is the same.

If someone wants more updates, information, or involvement than you’re comfortable with, he has a need that isn’t being met. When you meet the need, the person will likely back off.

I ask the people who work for me to never make me ask for something twice. Meaning, if I ask for an update the week before a speaking engagement, anticipate that I’ll want that information for all engagements. Confirm by asking me and then provide the data without being asked for all future engagements. Getting the information regularly without having to ask builds trust and credibility.

Here are six tips for working with control freaks:

  1. If you don’t know, ask:
  • Their work-related goals.
  • What the person is concerned about at work.
  • How s/he likes to communicate – in-person, email, phone, voicemail, or text.
  • How often s/he wants information, in what format, and with how much detail.

2. Provide more information than you think you need to, and then ensure the person wants that information in the future.

3. If you’re asked for information, ask why the person wants it, and if s/he wants it in the future. Then provide the information before you’re asked.

4. If someone is overly involved in your work and you feel you have no freedom, state your observation and ask for information. That could sound like, “You’ve been involved with each major decision with this project. I’m used to working with less oversight. Do you have a concern about my approach?” Then you negotiate. Everything is a negotiation.

5. This will put the other person on the defensive. A less confrontational approach is to discuss and agree upon levels of involvement and supervision when projects begin. That could sound something like, “What kind of involvement do you want to have in this project? What do you want to do? What do you want me to do? What kind of updates would you like, how often, and with how much detail?” It’s always easier to prevent a problem than to fix one.

6. Lastly, don’t take anything personally. Oversight and involvement may be a reflection of how someone feels about your performance, but it might not. When in doubt, ask.

 

control freak


Don’t Damage Your Career at the Company Holiday Party

Many of us have seen our friends, coworkers and even manager do really dumb things at the company holiday party.company holiday party

Here are list of my favorites:

  • Having a few too many drinks and sharing confidential information.
  • Wearing a dress that shows the people you work with more of your body than they should see.
  • Showing moves on the dance floor that you don’t have.
  • Hooking up with coworkers.

Your company holiday party is a company event, and anything you wear, do, or say is grounds for gossip the next day at work.

Don’t become the topic of conversation the day after your company holiday party.

A few rules to live by at your company holiday party:

  • If you wouldn’t want a picture of you wearing it hung up in a conference room, don’t wear it to the holiday party.
  • Don’t get drunk at a company event, ever. If you get ‘chatty’ after two drinks, then two is too many.
  • If you wouldn’t say something to someone at work, don’t say it at the holiday party.

The last rule: Help your friends and coworkers by stopping them from making career limited moves at company events. Rather than watching the train wreck go by as your friends say and do things they shouldn’t, gather your courage, and tell them it’s time to switch to club soda.

You may feel like you can’t give this type of feedback. It is hard to do, unless you’ve made an agreement before the party starts to do so. And even if you do make an agreement to tell people when they do something dumb, it’s still hard to do. But it will probably feel almost impossible if you haven’t set the expectation in advance.

So make a deal with your friends at work. If anyone says, does, or wears something really misguided to the holiday party, you will tell each other without negative recourse. And if all else fails, and you break every ‘rule’ listed here, just call out sick for two weeks after the company holiday party, because that won’t raise any red flags at all.

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Corporate Culture – I’m Not Invisible

I’ve always thought it was weird to sit next to someone on a plane and not say hello. I don’t mean a long chat, “Where are you going? Do you live there? What do you do for work,” merely a hello. Or to pass someone on the street or at the gym who pretends not to see me. It’s downright weird. And it’s even worse at work.

Passing someone in the hallway at work who you may or may not know and notcorporate culture saying hello can be off putting to many people. Admittedly, some people don’t care. But more do.

Many of the people you work with are affronted if you pass them in the hallway and don’t smile and/or say hello. They’ll never tell you they’re put off by the lack of social graces, they’ll just make decisions and assume they’re right. They’ll tell themselves, “We sit in multiple meetings together, and that guy doesn’t even know who I am.” Or, “I’ve walked past this woman every day for five years and it’s like she’s never seen me before.” Or, “Bob never says hello when he sees me in the hallway. I wonder why he doesn’t like me?”

Chances are you’re not thinking any of these things about the people you work with. You’re busy and focused on other things, and your mind is not on making small talk when you pass people in the hallway. But know that not saying hello can have an impact on the people around you and your corporate culture.

Start this simple practice: Smile and say hello to everyone you pass at work. Saying hello in the hallway won’t cost you anything or take any more time. And you never know the doors it might open. Maybe the person in accounts payable who’s been kicking back your expense reports will cut you a reimbursement check even when you fill out the wrong form. Or maybe IT will come to your desk first versus eighth when your laptop decides it’s taking a vacation day.

Get more simple ways to strengthen your corporate culture with a signed copy of How to Say Anything to Anyone. The book is on sale for $15 to celebrate our 4th printing. It’s the perfect holiday gift. Get your copy now! Offer ends 12/31/16.

 


Manage Your Professional Reputation – Get There First

Managers Don't Like SurprisesYou’ve heard countless times that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So when something not-so-positive happens – a customer is upset, you missed a deadline or made an error – don’t let your boss find out about it from someone else. Manage your professional reputation and get there first to create the first impression of what happened.

Managers don’t like surprises. If your manager is going to get a call about something that isn’t positive, let her know before the call comes in. You will create her perception of the situation, and perceptions are hard to change.  Don’t wait for the s*** to hit the fan. Get ahead of the problem by coming forward and giving your manager and other stakeholders a heads up.

Boss Phone CallIt could sound something like this, “I just had a tough conversation with John in IT. You may get a call.  Here’s what happened… I didn’t want you to be surprised.”

Or, “I told Brian at Intellitec that we’re raising our prices in the second quarter. He wasn’t happy. You may get a call.”

Or let’s say you’re going to work on a strained relationship. Tell your manager before you take action.  It could sound something like this, “I want to work on my relationship with Julie. Our relationship has been strained since we worked together on the software project last year. I’d like to approach her, tell her that I know our relationship is strained, and that I’d like a good working relationship with her. Then I’d like to ask if You Create the first Impressionshe’s willing to have lunch with me, talk about what’s happened, and see if we can start again in a more positive way.  What do you think of me doing that?  Would you approach the conversation differently? I don’t know how it’s going to go, so I wanted you to know what I’m planning to do, just in case it backfires and you get a call.”

Manage your professional reputation assertively by taking responsibility for mistakes, working on damaged relationships, and telling your manager before someone else does!

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Want to Advance Your Career? How to Ask For More Responsibility At Work

Too many people sit at their desks doing their minimal best, while begrudging their boss, organization and current job, hoping that something better will come along. Or people do good work and think that someday someone will notice and they’ll get the role and recognition they deserve.

If you want to advance your career, you must know how to ask for more responsibility at work.Feeling Stuck at Work

You may be rolling your eyes thinking, “More? I can’t do more. I already work evenings and weekends. I sleep with my phone and haven’t taken a vacation in two years, and you want me to do more?!?!?” Actually I want you to stop sleeping with your phone and take a vacation. But that’s a post for a different day.

When I say do more, I don’t mean do anything anyone asks nor anything your organization needs. Offer to take on more work that is aligned with what you want to do AND is important to the leaders of your organization.

Before starting Candid Culture, I ran an operations unit for a career college. Four years into my tenure with the company, one of my peers left, and his role wasn’t refilled. I felt his department was important to our organization’s success, so I offered to run it, in addition to my already big job.

My new department was a change agent’s dream. I outlined a strategic plan and long and short term goals. I re-wrote job descriptions and org charts. But six months into taking on the department, I couldn’t get one change approved. I was confused and frustrated.

I had initially been hired to turn another department around, and I’d been very successful at getting changes approved. Yet this time, I could get nothing approved. After six months of banging my head against a wall, I finally ‘got it.’ The owners of the company didn’t see the department as valuable, thus they weren’t willing to invest in it.

I’m embarrassed at how long it took me to see this. When my colleague’s senior level job wasn’t refilled and there was no freeze in hiring, I should have known the department wasn’t seen as important.

If you want to know what’s important in your organization, look at where money is being spent. Who is getting resources?

When I say ask for more, I mean be strategic about what you ask for.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. Where in the organization are there opportunities to do that kind of work – that is important to the organization’s leaders?
  3. Who will support me in doing this work? Who won’t?

How to ask for more responsibility at work. Tell your boss and/or department leader:         

  •  I really enjoy working here. I enjoy the people, the work and our industry.
  • I’m committed to growing my career with this organization.
  • I’m interested in learning more about ________________________.
  • I’d love to run ___________________________.
  • I think we have some opportunities to make improvements in _____________________.
  • How could I get some exposure to ____________________.
  • A project is starting in ______________.  I’d love to be on the team.  What are your thoughts about that? Would you be comfortable supporting my participation? If yes, how can we make it happen? If not, what would you need from me in order to support it?

The work you take on does not need to be high level. Everyone in an organization does grunt work. Just be sure that whatever you offer to do is seen as integral to the future of the organization. You’re not likely to get what you don’t ask for.

Read chapter five of How to Say Anything to Anyone and manage your boss better.

Read How to Say Anything to Anyone


Work Appropriate Halloween Costumes – Don’t Wear These

halloween no noComing to work in costume on Halloween?  Whatever you wear to work is likely to be captured by someone’s phone and shared . . . widely.

None of these are work appropriate Halloween costumes:

  • Your boss
  • Your boss’s spouse
  • An employee who is “regrettably” no longer with the organization
  • Whatever fit ten years ago

Sometimes people forget that work parties are still work and work appropriate Halloween costumes should be worn.

This reminds me of a participant I had in a public speaking class several years ago. While doing a presentation, in class, he told a story about being ten years old and playing outside in his neighborhood when he realized he needed to go to the bathroom. He raced home, but didn’t make it. He ended up going to the bathroom outside, next to his house. After that class, every time I saw the guy in the hallway at work, I had the image of him pooping next to his house and years later the image remains with me.

Telling that story was a bad call. It created ahalloween photo 2 long-lasting impression I doubt he wanted his co-workers to have.

Impressions are made more quickly than they are forgotten. Have fun on Halloween, just not too much fun. If you wouldn’t want to see a photo of you in costume hanging in your organization’s lobby or on your website, don’t wear it to work.


Give Feedback When You’re Not Upset

give feedbackWe’ve all received work from another person that wasn’t what we were expecting, hit reply, and told the other person what we thought. Then we dealt with the consequences.

A few tips for giving feedback to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t:

Don’t give feedback via email. Ever. You can’t manage your tone or see the person’s reaction.

Practice the 24-hour rule and the one week guideline. Wait until you’re not upset to give feedback, but don’t wait longer than a week.

It’s almost impossible to give feedback without putting the other person on the defensive. Becoming defensive when receiving feedback is normal and natural. It’s a way to protect ourselves when we feel attacked.

When people are defensive, it’s hard to listen and respond. The less defensive the other person becomes, the easier it is to communicate with that person. People will be less defensive if you give feedback when you’re calm and choose your words carefully.

Communicate in a way that the relationship needs versus what you need in the moment.

When we give feedback when we’re upset, we’re really communicating for us, not for the other person. I didn’t get what I want. I’m upset. And I’m going to tell you about it. Then the other person gets upset and now, in addition to you not getting what you wanted in the first place, you have to do damage control.

Communicating in a way the relationship needs means choosing the timing, words and method of communication that is likely to produce the result you want – the other person being able to hear you, while becoming minimally defensive, and taking action. Giving feedback when you’re upset, especially via email, will not produce the result you want. You’ll only damage your relationship.

Being a good communicator and maintaining good business relationships requires patience and self discipline. This is something I work on ALL the time. Last week I sent one of my vendors feedback via email, when I was upset, and spent two days trying to recover. I sent a minor email with critique, he felt attacked, and I damaged our relationship.

It doesn’t take much to raise someone’s defensiveness to the point that you have to do damage control.

Wait to give feedback until you’re not upset. Don’t send an email. Pick up the phone or walk to the person’s desk. Deliver the feedback in a way the other person can hear you.  Be ready for him to become defensive. It’s human to become defensive. You can’t eliminate defensiveness, but how you deliver feedback can greatly reduce it. And you’ll get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

Read How to Say Anything to Anyone and get the words to have even the toughest conversations.


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